As Dyster Dithers, Ceretto Takes Charge
By Mike Hudson
State Rep. John Ceretto (R-Lewiston) is a man of action. To him, the state’s decision to once again house convicted child sexual predators a stone’s throw away from the 700-student Niagara Street Elementary School is simply unacceptable.
Also unacceptable to the 145th District lawmaker is the location of the state parole office, smack in the middle of the Third Street “Entertainment District,” where millions of tax dollars have been spent in an effort to attract visitors. But unlike Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, who rarely takes on Albany on behalf of his city, Ceretto is prepared to do something about it.
The assemblyman recently fired off a series of letters to the New York State Office of General Services -- which ultimately channels the funding that supports as many as seven Level 2 and Level 3 child rapists at the Midtown Hotel on Niagara Street, less than 1,000 feet from the school and less than 200 feet from a church-operated day care center – as well as paying the rent on the parole office.
Why, Ceretto wonders, is the state forcing violent felons, murderers, thieves and rapists, to report regularly on Third Street, which both the city and the state have touted as a fun destination and spent millions to improve?
Thus far, he hasn’t gotten any answers.
His most recent letter, dated March 29, plainly states his concern.
“Albany is sending the wrong message to the tourism industry and hampers any hopes we have to attract potential investors,” Ceretto wrote. “As previously stated, to locate or allow a parole office to remain in that location signals to tourists to Niagara Falls that New York State is not open for business.”
Ceretto included with his letter an article from last week’s Niagara Falls Reporter – “State Parole Brings Them Near School…Sex Offenders.”
It was more than two years ago that the New York State Division of Parole issued a request for proposals aimed at moving the local parole office away from the Third Street Entertainment District, which was supposed to have been a keystone project in the revitalization of the city’s South End.
By the end of 2010, local parole officials had settled on a new site, the school district’s former administrative office building on Sixth Street.
Located in the heart of a struggling residential neighborhood, the office would have been almost directly across the street from a residential facility for battered women.
Opened in 2005, and named after the late community activist Carolyn Van Schaik, Carolyn's House is a shelter for victims of domestic violence. The fully renovated, four-story brick building has 19 apartments -- studio, one- two- or three-bedroom units -- complete with new stoves and refrigerators. In addition, each resident is provided with a new bed, an item many victims have never before owned.
Following a Reporter expose about the proposed move in February 2011, the community was outraged. As with its decision to house child rapists a stone’s throw from an elementary school, the Division of Parole showed a monumental insensitivity toward a neighborhood already beleaguered with an out-of-control crime problem.
Ceretto wrote that a more appropriate area for both the parole office and the housing of sex offenders might be on North Main Street where the $50 million construction of a new police station and criminal court building was supposed to spur development but so far has not.
Perhaps such a move would make too much sense.
And where has Mayor Dyster been in all this? After allowing consultants and contractors to submit unlimited change orders that drove the cost of the courthouse project into the stratosphere on the promise of spinoff development, his efforts to promote North Main Street as a place to do business have been an abject failure.
He has yet to offer any public comment on the parole office location, and his only on-the-record statement about the child rapists near the Niagara Street School has been to point out that even child rapists “have to live somewhere.”
Dyster has contented himself to deal with, and often create, problems that don’t exist, promoting a multi-million dollar train station project to make the dozen or so misfits who arrive in Niagara Falls daily by rail to feel more comfortable, and fostering a plan that would establish an urban playground, complete with lighted basketball courts, at Jayne Park, a bucolic oasis of green set amidst the serene environment of Cayuga Island.
After nearly five years of Dyster’s dithering, the city is on the verge of bankruptcy, crime is running rampant in the streets, and the tax base is shrinking on an almost daily basis. Even longtime residents are throwing in the towel and moving to greener pastures.
A quick Google search of the Niagara Street School neighborhood reveals the presence of the Midtown Hotel and the biographies of the perverted sexual predators who call it home. Does anyone think that, even with the bargain basement housing costs in the area, anyone with a choice would want their children anywhere near the place?
The same holds true for the Third Street Entertainment District. What responsible developer would choose to locate a hospitality or tourism related business on a strip that plays host to a steady stream of violent criminals cut loose by a permissive society uncertain about how to reduce prison overcrowding.
While Dyster can often be found singing the praises of artisanal beer, pounding shots backstage at some ersatz rock concert with some broken down group of touring musicians or simply up in his room playing with his trains, the real business of Niagara Falls is being left to men like Ceretto and the city council majority of Bob Anderson, Sam Fruscione and Glenn Choolokian.
They represent the future of this city, while Dyster is and will remain and embarrassment and a costly mistake.
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